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UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety visits Latin America (21 August-1 September) to call for accrued mobilization for safer mobility

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety visits Latin America (21 August-1 September) to call for accrued mobilization for safer mobility

Car traffic Sao Paolo

The Special Envoy Jean Todt will visit Honduras (August 21-22), El Salvador (August 23-24), Brazil (August 26-29), and Paraguay (August 30-31) to meet with ministers and representatives of the public and private sector and NGOs, to advocate for the effective implementation of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, which aims to halve the number of victims on the road by 2030.   

Road traffic crashes are the leading cause of youth mortality in Latin America. Globally, Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries reported 17 deaths per 100,000 population due to road traffic crashes, almost two times higher than the European average of 9/100,000. 

The visit of the Special Envoy will be also an opportunity to look at the progress of UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) projects in the region to promote non-motorized travel, as well as the use of public transport to help reduce road traffic crashes, traffic congestion, and environmental degradation in the region. 

“Road crashes are one of the main killers of kids In Latin America. This is not acceptable. We need to build cities with children and adolescents at the centre to ensure that all of them have access to safe and sustainable mobility », highlights the Special Envoy. 

Road crashes are a public health issue… 

According to the World Bank, the mortality rate on the roads in El Salvador is 22.2 per 100,000 inhabitants. Pedestrians accounts for nearly 50% of road fatalities. The national authorities highlight some progress with a decrease of 6% of traffic crashes in 2021, thanks to the reinforcement of anti-doping checkpoints to regulate and control the speed of drivers and enforce driving law. Main risks factors in the country are non-compliance with the rules, driver distraction, not keeping the distance, crossing the lane and drunk driving. 

In 2022, road crashes were the second cause of violent fatalities in Honduras, just after homicides.  According to the World Bank, the mortality rate in Honduras is 16.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. The country reports that in 2022, the main victims  of deaths due to traffic accident-related injuries were drivers and pedestrians (49% and 28% respectively). 85% of the victims are men, with men aged 18 to 30 accounting for 30% of all deaths. 59% of road traffic accident-fatalities were reported from Friday to Sunday, and nearly 40% of the crashes happen at night (7:00 pm- 11:00 pm). 

In Brazil, the mortality rate is 19.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.  Riders of motorized 2- and 3-wheelers are the most at risk on the roads of the country. In recent years, cities in Brazil have reduced traffic crashes, and through media campaigns and stronger enforcement, drunk driving has been reduced in some cities. These are encouraging trends but  more needs to be done to raise awareness about road safety and mobilise more investment and action at both the national and local levels. 

According to the World Bank, the mortality rate in Paraguay is 22.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. As many countries in the world, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death of young people aged of 5 to 29 , while injuries caused by road traffic crashes have increased in the last 5 years. According to the National Traffic and Road Safety Agency (ANTSV), 248 people died on the roads of Paraguay in the first quarter of 2023 and there  were 1,531 injured. 71% of the victims belong to the 18-29 age group, the active force of the country. The first causes of fatal accidents are collisions with vehicles, followed by accidents involving motorcycles, with bicycles and then pedestrians.  

… and an economic and development issue  

In addition to the human tragedy, road crashes trap countries into a vicious circle of poverty. According to the World Bank, the cost of road crashes represents 7.5 % of GDP in Paraguay,5.5 % in Honduras, 6.6 % in Brazil and 7.4 % in El Salvador.  Another reason to rethink mobility and to invest in road safety. 

"Given their economic cost, road crashes are jeopardizing the entire sustainable development agenda” stressed the special envoy.  “This means hundreds of millions of dollars are not available to countries to invest in infrastructure such as hospitals and public health systems (SDG 3); schools and universities (SDG 4); water and sanitation (SDG 6); energy (SDG 7) or housing (SDG 11); not to mention job creation (SDG 8), environmental protection (SDG 15) and climate action (SDG 13).”  

Addressing the whole system and rethinking mobility

The core solutions to address road safety at the country level fall under the safe systems approach, which considers improved management, safer roads, vehicles and road users, as well as better post-crash response. With cities in Latin American and the Caribbean undergoing rapid population growth, urban transport infrastructure services are essential to improve mobility and enhance access to opportunities. The management of road safety data is also key to better design mobility policies. It is also necessary to protect the most vulnerable road users, namely pedestrians and cyclists, who are often also the poorest and youngest. 

The United Nations Road Safety Fund is investing in a project called '' Promoting Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility in Paraguay", started in 2021 with the goal to promote an uptake of  non-motorized travel, as well as the use of public transport to help reduce road traffic crashes, traffic congestion, and environmental degradation. The project, led by the national agency for road safety (Agencia Nacional de Tránsito y Seguridad Vial (antsv) ) and UNICEF, will also contribute to reduce the number of injuries among youth.  

UNRSF also financed the implementation of a project titled “Strengthening Road traffic enforcement in the State of Pará in Brazil”, managed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and implemented with support from the Traffic Department of the State of Pará. The project has enabled Pará State to expand the training of traffic agents and thus strengthen enforcement actions and interventions on the roads. The project resulted in an increasing number of traffic enforcement checks per month from 1,200 to 2,136 in 2020. It also increased the use of breathalyzer tests from 360 to 837 in 2020. The project contributed to reduce the rate of traffic deaths in the state of Pará from 17.03 to 15.64/100,000 people. 


Notes to editors 

The United Nations has invested significantly in tackling the problem of road safety globally. Following the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020”, the UN General Assembly in August 2020 adopted a resolution on “Improving Road Safety”, that reconfirmed its commitment to halving the number of global traffic deaths and injuries and to providing access to safe, affordable, accessible, and sustainable transport systems for all by 2030. In October 2021, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Regional Commissions, in cooperation with partners in the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration and other stakeholders, developed the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, as a guiding document to support the implementation of the Decade of Action 2021–2030 and its objectives. 

In July 2022, the road safety community met in New York City for the first ever High-Level Meeting on Improving Global Road Safety at the United Nations General Assembly, unanimously adopting a text titled: “Political declaration of the high-level meeting on improving global road safety”. 

To galvanize intersectoral actions and raise the visibility of road safety, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, appointed in 2015 Jean Todt as his Special Envoy for Road Safety. He was reconfirmed in this role by the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, in 2017 and in 2021. In 2018, together with 14 UN organizations, the Special Envoy launched the UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF). In his role as UN Special Envoy, Mr. Todt contributes, among other things, to mobilize sustained political commitment to make road safety a priority; to advocate and raise awareness of UN legal instruments on road safety; to share established good practices in this area; to striving to generate adequate funding through strategic partnerships between the public, private and non-governmental sectors.  

Special Envoy brochure and Twitter account 

UNECE acts as the secretariat for the Special Envoy for Road Safety. UNECE is the custodian of the United Nations road safety legal instruments applicable worldwide, such as the Convention on Road Traffic, the Convention on Road Signs and Signals, and the 1958, 1997 and 1998 Vehicle Regulations Agreements.  UNECE services the ECOSOC Committee of Experts on Transport of Dangerous Goods, as well as the only permanent United Nations intergovernmental forum on road safety (Working Party on Road Traffic Safety) and the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, both in the framework of the Inland Transport Committee, which is the only permanent UN forum specialized in inland modes of transport. 

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